Your dread of poor customer experience is justified: The holidays are going to be tough on retailers this year. It’s already proving to be a mess of a season. Between supply shortages, delivery delays, and a smaller labor pool, holiday shopping can prove difficult this year.
And customers know it.
68% of shoppers are either very or somewhat concerned about poor service due to a lack of employees, according to the Salesforce Holiday Insights report. 78% are concerned about shipping delays and product availability, respectively.
Overall, there’s a lot to worry about this year. But you’re not alone.
On a positive note, holiday shopping has started earlier. Sales were up 18% year-over-year for the first two weeks of November, according to Salesforce. Black Friday sales aren’t breaking any records and actually suffered a small decline over last year. Adobe Analytics is reporting $8.9 billion in sales, which actually makes sense. It tracks with earlier spending as shoppers try to avoid stockouts and shipping delays.
Now to your big question: How do you ensure a stellar customer experience amidst these challenges? Let’s discuss that.
Customer loyalty matters more than ever
It seems like we say that a lot, doesn’t it?
Customer loyalty is a constant focus, but it becomes even more critical during times of change. As shoppers move toward e-commerce, they forge new loyalties. The brand interactions they have are with your customer support team instead of with sales team members. This poses both challenges and opportunities.
But the real problem this holiday season is that shoppers know what they want, and they don’t care who they get it from.
“39% of consumers who couldn’t get an out-of-stock item switched brands or products, and 32% switched retailers.”
According to a McKinsey study, 39% of consumers who couldn’t get an out-of-stock item switched brands or products, and 32% switched retailers. They’re not waiting for items to come back in stock.
Whether trying to keep the customers you have or attempting to capture new customers as they jump ship from other retailers, you have a short window to capture their loyalty.
How do you do that? Listen to your customers, communicate effectively, and empower your agents to go above and beyond whenever possible.
Infuse CX into every step of the customer journey
Since customers are more willing to switch retailers to get the items they want, your customer experience needs to be your number one priority.
We know you’re already slammed with holiday queries, but bringing your support team into every step of the customer journey is the best way to ensure a stellar customer experience.
Consider how to get ahead of customer problems before they get to your support team. Include holiday questions on your FAQ page and send out notifications when inventory or shipping snags occur.
When problems do arise, remember these short customer experience tips to solve problems quickly and earn back the trust of your customers.
Quick customer experience tips:
- Be warm
- Be prepared with quick answers
- Ensure your customer feels listened to
- Don’t come off as rote
- Be transparent about problems
- Solve issues in one support request
Get creative with staffing
According to Forbes, 68% of organizations saw a greater increase in customer service inquiries during the 2020 holiday season versus the 2019 holiday season. It would be no surprise to see even higher numbers this season.
And in customer service, immediacy is the name of the game. Customers want quick service and often expect some kind of reply 24/7. Yet many retailers are short-staffed.
While the labor pool is shallow, long wait times are the quickest way to frustrate your customers. To ensure your team isn’t completely overwhelmed, get creative with your staffing:
Top holiday staffing strategies
- Lean into short-term staffing
- Extend hours for employees who want them
- Stagger shifts based on peak shopping hours
- Pull in employees from other departments
- Extend your labor pool with remote hires
The right infrastructure can make hiring short-term and remote employees a breeze. Messaging software makes it possible to onboard new hires quickly—even when they’re across the country. No need to ship desk phones or physical products. Just log in and go.
Embrace chatbots for improved customer service
We know it’s crunch time, but adding chatbots to your customer experience arsenal will do a lot to smooth out the snags. There’s a lot you can do with chatbots and AI to speed up your customer response time.
The first is to use chatbots as a routing method. Ask simple questions to gauge the type of customer issue. If you can direct the customer to another department or another self-service option, that’s a best-case scenario.
You can also get more advanced and prepare scripts for commonly asked questions. Consider it an FAQ page on steroids. You can answer slightly more complex queries, and customers get the feeling of personal service.
Here are some common holiday questions you can program a chatbot to answer:
Common questions for your chatbot
- What’s the status of my order?
- When’s the last day to order to ensure my package gets delivered by Christmas Eve?
- What’s your return policy?
- How much is shipping?
- When will this item be back in stock?
- How often do you get new products in?
- I ordered the wrong size, what do I do?
Preparing scripts for simple answers like these once can save your team from handling hundreds of interactions—give them more time and you one less thing to worry about.
Streamline backend technology
The holidays are the worst time of year to fight against your technology. Customer service teams are handling loads of messages and calls from all different platforms, and switching between them is inefficient. And frankly annoying.
Consider a conversational platform that allows your customers to reach out using the preferred channel but still keeps the backend organized and efficient for your team.
Agents can bounce back and forth between messaging channels without losing track of conversations. Customers get to chat with your brand how they want, where they want, and your team gets to preserve the experience and deliver snag-free customer service.
Do away with dread and upgrade your customer experience
The holidays are a make-or-break moment for retailers. While you may be dreading the rush just as much as the customer, they’re looking to your customer support team to shine amidst the struggles.
Let your last major technology purchase of the year be one that can help you get through the holiday season with fewer customer experience snags and more sales
Power your customer service team with Quiq
Ensure your team communicates effectively over any messaging channel with Quiq. Our AI-enhanced conversational platform supports your customer service team with multiple messaging channels, chatbots, CRM integrations, and more.